San Francisco 49ers second-year linebacker Reuben Foster brought a checkered past with him upon joining the NFL. After more issues this offseason, can he step up in 2018 and put his red flags behind him?
So much has been reported about San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, both on and off the field, that it’s difficult to wade through what is fact and what is fiction. His entrance into the NFL has been like a wacky carnival ride, in some ways.
Since his induction to the Niners defense in 2017, surrounding him have been conundrums, arrests, quick-reaction takes, injury-related disappearing acts, heart-stopping acrobatics and rabid 49ers fans on the edges of their seats anticipating what this colorful athlete will pull out of his hat, err… helmet next.
Come to think of it, perhaps No. 56 is less of a carnival ride, and more of a one-man circus! No doubt Foster is drenched in athletic prowess and blessed with a natural charisma and likability. Anyone who has ever watched tape on him or seen an interview with the guy knows that.
Foster also seems to carry a chip on his shoulder along, perhaps, with a sense of entitlement as many first-year pro athletes do.
So the question remains, can this native Alabamian put his mistakes behind him, embrace his role and step up this season for our beloved Niners?
Former fan favorite, linebacker NaVorro Bowman, left behind some big shoes to fill. (Bowman’s long-term tenure with the 49ers came to a close midway through 2017, and he signed on with the Oakland Raiders on a one-year deal).
Foster will have two parts of pertinence: both as a captain on defense and as a threat to opposing runners and receivers.
Let’s break this down into two parts, shall we?
First, we will briefly revisit Reuben’s run-ins with the law, just to keep fresh in our collective minds the pressure this young man is facing.
After that, we will spread the evidence we have compiled out before us and decide, can this 24 year old settle down and lead the red and gold’s young defense to triumph against all comers?
If so, maybe this team, as a whole, can hoist themselves back into that velvety soft throne atop the NFC West. But, ahhhh… I digress.
Considering how critical getting Foster in gear is to San Francisco, I consider each of the following incidents dodging the proverbial “bullet.”
- Bullet No. 1: At the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, prospects were put through the ordinary routine that happens each and every year, and each was asked to urinate in a cup. Foster’s test resulted in a diluted sample, which isn’t passing and therefore forced Foster into the NFL’s substance abuse program.
This means that the former first-team All American will be subject to further random tests. Undaunted, Foster simply said, “Put me in the room. Test me,” per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. It was all chalked up to food poisoning, and things progressed.
Next, apparently miffed by having to stand in long, sweaty lines at the combine, Foster got into a raucous spat with a hospital employee, threatening to lay hands on him.
I don’t know a lot, but I’m not inclined to believe he meant that in a healing sense. To virtually no one’s shock or dismay, Foster was dismissed early from the combine. OK, so he was still none-the-worse for wear. Even after that!
- Bullet No. 2: On Jan. 13, 2018, Foster was whisked away to a Tuscaloosa jailhouse over a marijuana charge in the second degree, as reported by Brad Almquist of KNBR.
Foster easily posted a bond of $2,500.00, which is akin to us average folks purchasing a fast-food meal, and was released. This charge was later dropped… Dropped!
One would think, perhaps, that was enough excitement. Perhaps it was, in his mind. I would like to think his eyes were opened by now. Unfortunately, even if he had decided to clean up his act at that point, another issue threatened his 49ers career.
- Bullet No. 3: An ex-girlfriend who, by accounts, accused Reuben of physically abusing her during a disagreement. Police searched his home, finding an illegal assault weapon and a loaded handgun. What, What, What!?
Word soon spread that he could be staring down 11 years in prison if convicted of three felony charges brought forth against him. A stint like that sure would put a damper on something like getting paid millions of dollars to live your lifelong passion.
Forget the 49ers’ situation with Foster, just think about Foster’s future in general. Where was it headed at that particular moment?
Fortunately for him and the Niners, the ex-girlfriend’s recanted her statement, legally. She admitted that she had fabricated the allegations as part of a way to get back at Foster for breaking up with her.
I comprehend that these guys are still “kids,” essentially, who often have to deal with the realest of real-world events with only the most modest of life’s experiences. Furthermore, I can not imagine what it must have been like to be in Foster’s shoes, which were tremendously difficult, from his youth to entering the NFL.
The hardships faced by his mother while raising him are well known. All of this was expertly covered by Sports Illustrated’s Robert Klemko back in March of 2017.
Think of Herschel Walker in the early 1980s. There was arguably the greatest running back to ever grace a college football field, being offered a copious amount of money to leave the Georgia Bulldogs after his junior year!
San Francisco 49ers
Yeah, he jumped on it. In addition to a salary, he was promised endorsement deals on all sorts of high-speed sports shoes us non-NFLers had never even heard of, let alone wear.
So, I understand that temptation. Imagine the possibilities. Yet, sooner or later, it seems as though common sense would kick in, the sheer magnitude of his new station and all of the people who now relied on him would become evident, and he would drop the worrisome distractions and focus on what he does best, play football.
There we have it, my friends. All of the whirlwinds spread there before us. What is in your mind? Do you think this offseason was the wake-up call Foster needed?
The coming months will tell the tale.
I do know that everything eventually slows down for these youthful millionaires. The smart ones listen to to the grizzled and battle-hardened veterans that have walked the walk seasons before them.
Lucky for Foster and us 49ers fans, the only punishment he received through everything is probation from the court system and a two-game suspension handed down by the NFL.
It could have been much, much worse.
Despite the sometimes pessimistic tone I have cast here on Foster here today, in the end, my money is on him to succeed. He is simply too driven to fail.
Let me know your thoughts! Until next time, Niners!